For years, Mohammad Zia Salehi managed to keep a low profile, even while wielding significant influence in the murky world of Afghan politics.
That all changed in July, when the administrative head of President Hamid Karzai's National Security Office was arrested on the basis of a months-long investigation conducted by a U.S.-backed anticorruption task force.
What does Armenia's military think of Russia selling its S-300 air defense system to Azerbaijan? Bring it on. Armenia has hosted Russian S-300s for at least a decade, and Russia has trained some Armenian officers in the system's use. So Armenia's defense minister Seyran Ohanyan says that experience will allow them to thwart any Azerbaijani attempt to use them:
"I must point out that the acquisition of Russian S-300 air-defense systems [by Azerbaijan] cannot directly influence the correlation of forces between Armenia and Azerbaijan, because their use by Azerbaijan against the Armenian Armed Forces would be fruitless under all possible scenarios," he said. "The reason for that is simple: we are very familiar with those systems, we have been exploiting them for quite a long time, and we know the possibilities of reducing the effectiveness of such systems."
Ohanian was likely referring to at least two batteries of S-300s that were deployed by Russia at its military base in Armenia in the late 1990s.
Top Russian military officials announced in early 2007 that Moscow has further upgraded Armenia's air defenses and trained Armenian military personnel to operate the air-defense systems. The Armenian military confirmed that, saying the training began in 2005.
Ohanian added that even if Azerbaijan does acquire S-300s, it would need "quite a lot of time" to develop an integrated radio-technical system for them.
While RFE/RL refers to the S-300 sale to Azerbaijan as "alleged," it doesn't say whether or not Ohanyan believed it to be real or not. He is, however, confident that in the event of war with Azerbaijan Russia would come to Armenia's defense anyway -- assuming the war threatened Armenia itself:
Turkmenistan, so key to the energy plans of so many, had long shown its readiness to break Russia's stranglehold on its gas and oil exports. But Ashgabat has offered few hints as to who it prefers as an alternative.
When the violence in Kyrgyzstan's southern city of Osh subsided in June, one thing was plain: whole neighborhoods of minority Uzbeks had been burned to the ground, while most buildings belonging to ethnic Kyrgyz remained standing.
The Initiative Group say that on July 17, Erkin Abdullayev, 32, of Dekhkanab district in Kashkadarya region, was shot while riding his motorcycle over the border. Abdullayev, who was unemployed, was trying to bring a canister of gasoline from Turkmenistan. The severely injured man was brought to the hospital in Karshi, but died a day later. He leaves behind four children.
Abdullayev had apparently joined an increasing flow of Uzbeks crossing the border to buy cheap gasoline to use or resell in Uzbekistan. Human rights activists say that while officially, gas costs 80 cents per liter in Uzbekistan, it is sold for $1.20 per liter at gas stations and speculators can sell it for even more, about $2.50 a liter. Uzbeks in the regions bordering Turkmenistan have found that the Turkmen gasoline prices, subsidized by the government, are twice as less.
The incident is one of a string of such deaths that have occurred at the Turkmen border in recent years as Turkmenistan, bounded by Iran, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan, tightens up security in its volatile neighborhood. Independent news outlets and human rights groups have been reporting that Turkmen border guards have become increasingly harsh in dealing with border encroachment by various shepherds and fishermen and have cracked down on traders with contraband. Despite benefiting from considerable training from the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe and member states such as the United States, the Turkmen border service appears sometimes to operate in a regime of "shoot first, and ask questions later".
Armenia's defense minister, Seyran Ohanian, says that Armenia plans to buy "long-range, precision-guided weapons," though it hasn't specified of what sort and from whom. Reports RFE/RL:
Ohanian's announcement today followed a meeting of an Armenian government commission on national security that approved two programs envisaging a modernization of the country's armed forces. One of the documents deals with army weaponry, while the other details measures to develop the domestic defense industry.
Ohanian said the programs "will qualitatively improve the level of the armed forces in the short and medium terms."
"The two programs envisage both the acquisition of state-of-the-art weapons and their partial manufacturing by the local defense industry," Ohanian said. "The main directions are the expansion of our long-range strike capacity and the introduction of extremely precise systems, which will allow us to minimize the enemy's civilian casualties during conflicts."
Ohanian said that "their application will also allow us to thwart enemy movements deep inside the entire theater of hostilities." He did not specify whether Yerevan will seek to acquire surface-to-surface missiles capable of hitting targets in historic rival Azerbaijan.
One would assume these weapons will come from Russia. During the same press conference, Ohanian downplayed the still-unconfirmed rumors that Azerbaijan would be acquiring S-300 air defense systems from Russia, saying he didn't have any information that that was true, and that anyway it was a "defensive" weapon. Perhaps his confidence comes from actually knowing that the rumors aren't true?